The 2023-24 Calgary Flames season has looked much more promising as of late, with the arrivals of Dustin Wolf, Connor Zary, Nick DeSimone and Martin Pospisil opening the eyes of management to the potential success of a youth movement. With some key players set to hit unrestricted free agency this upcoming summer, many fans have been hoping that the Flames would go into a full-on rebuild, and while that appears to be the case, they have one thing that’s likely more important than that: getting their struggling $10.5 million star, Jonathan Huberdeau, going. Let’s take a look at prospective ways to unlock Huberdeau, whether internally or externally through a trade for a player like Anthony Duclair from the San Jose Sharks.
What’s the solution?
We’ve already seen the arrival of Connor Zary, who, paired with Yegor Sharangovich, has elevated the play of Nazem Kadri, who has been one of the teams best players in the last five or six games. So, now the question has to be asked: what can Calgary do to elevate the play of Jonathan Huberdeau? In their past six games, Huberdeau has been benched for the entire third period of one game and has contributed zero goals and just three assists over that time, so will the Flames look inside or outside the organization for a solution?
Young, internal options
The obvious answer to the solution would be to get Jakob Pelletier healthy, as he played well alongside Huberdeau last season when given the opportunity and clearly has a great relationship with the veteran. The young star has often been seen hyping up all of his teammates, but specifically his fellow Quebec native.
Beyond that, Matt Coronato is likely the only potential internal option, but with no timetable for Pelletier’s return from injury or Coronato’s return from the AHL, it appears as though the answer will come from outside the organization.
Reuniting with a former teammate
Whether or not Elias Lindholm is the answer down the middle for the Flames on their top line is no longer up for debate anymore, as the team should look to target a young name like Kent Johnson to replace him, but on the wing, the solution is clear; the Flames need to trade for Anthony Duclair. While in Florida together, Duclair, Huberdeau and former Flame Sam Bennett were perhaps one of, if not the best offensive line in all of hockey, with Huberdeau tallying a career high 115 points and Duclair on the opposite wing notching a career high 58 points of his own.
At 28-years old however, it’s clear that Duclair doesn’t exactly qualify under the generally accepted criteria of a rebuild. He’s been in the NHL for 10 seasons, but if the Flames want to get Huberdeau going after an NHL-record points drop-off last season, it may be the only way. While acquiring Duclair won’t be the only thing they need, as replacing Lindholm will also be a top priority, this is the cheapest and best option to get number 10 rolling again, especially as Pelletier may not return in 2023-24.
What price will the Flames need to pay?
Fortunately for Calgary, Duclair is currently with the San Jose Sharks, and given that he’s a free agent at year’s end, it likely won’t cost too much to land him, with several social media users suggesting a simple Dubé for Duclair one-for-one may get the job done. Whether or not the Sharks get a better offer for the 28-year-old veteran isn’t clear at this point, but it’s a great deal for both sides, and given what a 100% healthy and confident Huberdeau would look like for the future of this organization, it’s a price they need to be willing to pay.
Ultimately, several things for this team are true; they are stuck with Huberdeau for the better part of the next decade and the team also needs a rebuild, but that rebuild won’t be able to succeed if Huberdeau and Kadri don’t get going and start living up to their contracts. Simply put, the Flames have seemingly gotten Kadri going with the pair of Zary and Sharangovich around him, and with no elite level talents within the organization ready to do the same for Huby, the answer is simple – go get Anthony Duclair and find a young centre to play between them because you need to get him going in order to have any type of success now or in the future with this squad.